2 Tbsp. Baking Soda
1/3 Cup Vinegar (I use distilled white, but my friend uses apple cider)
Double for large or particularly dirty loads
Throw it all into the water as your washer fills up. (I've read that even those with front-loading HE washers can use this method, though I didn't read extensively on that subject since we aren't among that privileged class. :D)
That's it! It's so cheap. Can double as food storage. Can be purchased with food stamps. Glorious, right? But how does it work, you say? Well, the baking soda cleans the clothing, stripping smells and whatnot. It can't blast tough stains, but pre-treating with lemon juice sure can (or so I've been told - I'm still using my Zout until it runs out). The vinegar allows the clothing to dry without storing static, even without using a dryer sheet (I'm serious. No static. None. Zip. Zilch. Don't believe me? Try it!). It's also a disinfecting agent. The baking soda + vinegar method leaves your clothes unscented, but fresh. If you want scented laundry, I've read that you can add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil to the wash cycle. I haven't tried it though. Or you can still use dryer sheets, just for the smell. I don't, though. I like knowing that I can give my teething baby a wet washcloth to go to town on without worrying about all the lingering chemicals he's siphoning out of it and into his system. :)
So Jalapeño dubbed us tree huggers (I still shave my legs, though . . . occasionally!), sister laughed, and we're making ends meet in this gorgeous but costly San Diego climate. WIN!